In the past, user interface design was one of the magical things you stayed away from. It lived in the specialised realm of ‘stuff you got other people to do’, like IT or compliance. But as companies broaden their marketing away from basic display ads and brochures, it’s become vital for marketers to get a better understanding of how design works.
If you have a blog, or an app, or a magazine, you need a more sophisticated understanding of design than you had before. Even if you’re not designing it yourself, the design is a vital part of communication with your customers. It must work if you want to get your message out.
What is UI and UX design?
Ideas about UI (user-interface) and UX (user experience) design have been around since the mid-1990’s. They were coined to talk about how people interact with digital technology. But even though those seem like two different levels of interaction, they are deeply connected.
User interface design does the job that has always been the realm of an art director. But it’s purely digital. You can’t be a UI designer and not be on the computer or on the digital side.
User experience, or UX design or UX, is like coming up with a product. It has much in common with product development. You get the content and the research together, decide what you want to do, and how it will work. The UI designer transfers all that product development into a design layout, within a digital, responsive, interactive format.
The difference between this and your brand guidelines
Many companies have brand guidelines that determine things like typefaces and corporate colours. But this type of design goes beyond those concerns.
Think of it this way: Every time you open a website, someone has come up with the idea driving the website, what they’re trying to communicate.
The user interface is how you communicate that. Are you going to use photography? What colours are you going to use? Will there be interactive elements? Will the design be responsive, so look different based on the device being used to view it?
How do you determine design elements?
You need to work out what story you’re trying to tell, what message you’re trying to convey, and then you need to look at your overall branding. You need to be able to design with those in mind.
So the first step is looking at colours, logos, and anything else that your brand has got around it to communicate your story and values, and affect the emotions of whoever they’re trying to influence.
On top of that you have to think about what’s going to engage the reader. Digital design is multi-sensory, in that you work with photography, video, and sound.
But you can’t overdo it either. While the graphic design elements, like the logo and colours etc and their hierarchy on the page, are just one element, you have to think about how people use it.
It’s really about storytelling from a visual side, and determining which elements are going to be applicable and appropriate for it.